ATLANTA — Advisors may be able to shorten the time it takes to close on a sale by taking their time.

Todd Fithian, a wealth coach and managing partner of The Legacy Companies L.L.C., Boston, revealed how to distinguish “thinking clients” from “buying clients” — and to help buying clients feel empowered to buy — here today during a workshop at the annual meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), Park Ridge, Ill.

Workshop speakers addressed cutting-edge topics such as the latest developments in long term care planning, maximizing the tax efficiency of retirement income, and moving to a fee-based compensation structure without alienating clients.

Fithian addressed a classic topic: closing sales.

Fithian urged the producers at his session to “listen to learn.”

When advisors share too information with prospects during the very first meeting, prospects often feel worse than they did before the meeting, Fithian said.

Instead of providing a comprehensive overview of different products and one’s expertise, the advisor should work on easing the discomfort that prospects often feel when meeting an an advisor for the first time.

To reduce a prospect’s sense that the advisor is only interested in making a sale, an advisor should have great eye contact and repeat back what the client is saying, Fithian said.

The advisor also should write down any questions, Fithian said.

An advisor also needs to build the prospect’s sense of the advisor’s trustworthiness by maximizing expertise, reliability and advisor-client relationship skills and minimizing the prospect’s sense that the advisor mainly wants what’s best for the advisor, Fithian said.

An advisor should tell a prospect a story about the business process that will be used, and use that story to create opportunities to find out what relationships the client has with other professionals, Fithian said.

“I hear from advisors from time to time that ‘my prospects don’t know me well enough to disclose that information,’” Fithian said. “I think that’s a cop-out response.”

If a prospect is not willing to provide information about relationships with other professionals, the advisor might have asked for a sale too early or engaged an unqualified prospect, Fithian said.

To make a first meeting a closing meeting, Fithian said, an advisor should start by gathering information about the client’s goals, objectives and financial means.

Next, he said, the advisor should secure a commitment from the client to move forward using an agreement outlining what will occur in the second meeting. This agreement should include the date and time of the second meeting, specific discussion points and documents the advisor should receive in advance, reports that might be generated from the meeting — and space for the client’s signature.

“The prospect’s signature is the one way I have found that gets a commitment, other than fees,” Fithian said. “When people sign off on things, they follow through. This is also an amazing way to weed out what I call ‘tire kickers and time wasters’ from your life.”

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